Category Archives: Fiction

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Review: Gulf War Ghosts by W.P. Armstrong

I will admit up front that I normally shy away from historical fiction like it is the plague.  Gulf War Ghosts has made me rethink that position.  This is historical fiction that uses a historical period as the setting but dos not try to play what if games with events.  The setting is the immediate aftermath of the first Gulf war and the plot revolves around mysterious attacks on several American soldiers. With the exception of one mistake one of my biggest pet peeves about any writing having to do with military units was a non-issue.  That is, he gets the format and style of unit designations correct.  There is none of the typical mistake of saying A Company, 1st Division or other mistakes of that nature in the book.  The one mistake I noticed is when he refers to the 2nd Squadron, 8th Cavalry.  Squadron is typically the designation for battalion size Cavalry units but 2-8 Cav was and still is an Armor Battalion and is so designated as 2nd Battalion, 8th US Cavalry.  That is nitpicking though and I am probably one of the few people who looks out for that kind of stuff in books anyway. Because this is a novella the plot moves fast and while by the middle you get an idea where it is going it is written so well that you keep reading to find out exactly what happens.  At just shy of 70 pages printed, this only takes an hour or two to read.  That is an hour or two well spent.  This is an excellent story with an interesting twist and I highly recommend it.

Update:  My quibble about unit designations has been corrected in an update to the novella.

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Book Review- Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese

Starship Grifters is a mix of Slanted Jack, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Mort from Discworld. This book takes you on a hilarious, fast-paced adventure as a scam artist skips from one crisis and scam to another always staying one step ahead of disaster. The pop culture references and double entendres are skillfully woven into a great story you won’t want to put down. Rex Nihilo and his hilarious adventure left me wanting more.

I find that humor in fiction is hard to write and there are very few books touted as humorous that can get me to laugh out loud thus garnering strange looks from people around me.  This book is one of them.  I continually found myself giggling and laughing throughout.  One of the things I liked best was the unexpected pop-culture and sci fi trope references, he even gets a reference to redshirts in the book.

The plotting is tight and the story moves along continuously.  You have no idea how Rex is going to get out of the messes he finds himself in but he somehow does, usually with an even bigger lie than the one that got him in trouble in the first place.

I highly recommend Starship Grifters, if you enjoyed anything by Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett you will like this.  One of the best sci fi humour books I have read in a long time.

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Book Review: Under a Graveyard Sky & To Sail a Darkling Sea by John Ringo

Under a Graveyard Sky & To Sail a Darkling Sea together are yet another excellent offering from John Ringo, one of the masters at writing combat sci fi today.  These are the first two books in the Black Tide Rising series, the next book in the series, Islands of Rage and Hope is due for release in August, 2014.

The concept behind the series is the Zombie Apocalypse, a popular theme in fiction in the past 5-10 years.  This is a variation on that theme with the difference being that the zombies are not undead, they are still alive just infected.  The zombies have been infected with a virus that essentially eliminates higher order thinking in its victims leading them to revert to unthinking savagery.

The story essentially follows the activities of the Smith family consisting of a father, mother, and two daughters as they try to rebuild society.  Book one focuses on the outbreak of the viral plague and the way in which the Smith family escape the mainland and end up starting their rescue efforts on the high seas.  Book two is focused on the efforts of the Smiths to rescue as many people as possible from boats and ships stranded or parked in the Atlantic in the months after the virus outbreak has turned out the lights on the world.  The eventual goal of the Smiths is to retake some medical facilities at Gitmo to allow them to synthesize enough vaccine to inoculate the crews of the US subforce and the last American command center in Omaha, Nebraska allowing them to surface and rejoin to effort to start clearing the mainland of the continents from the legions of infecteds, as they are termed.

Ringo does not stint on the action scenes and as usual he is very inventive when it comes to devising weapons systems and TTPs for attacking the enemy, in this case zombies.  It is a rollicking good read and at just over 350 pages a decent length.  I finished the book in two days but then I always do that when I find a good book.

If you like combat fiction or enjoyed Ringo’s Posleen War series then you will love the Black Tide Rising books as well.  I highly recommend this book and series.

The third book in this series is due out later this summer.

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Book Review: Power Games by Richard Peters

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own]

I get 5-10 requests a month from publishers and authors to review their books here on B&BR and usually accept 3-4 of them because I don’t have as much time to read as I would like.  When Richard Peters, the author of Power Games: Operation Enduring Unity I contacted me and inquired about reviewing his book I had a stack of 5 other books I was working through and initially almost turned him down for lack of time.  Man, am I glad I did not.  Power Games is one of those rare fiction books, for me anyway, that grabs you from the start and won’t let go.  I read the whole book in a marathon overnight session because I could not put it down.

The premise of the book is the story of the opening months of the second Civil War in America.  The book starts with a botched assassination and tings spiral out of control from there.  The divided and fractured nature of current American politics is shown for the failure waiting to happen that it is.  as through a series of plausible steps the country swings from disaffection with the results of an election to open rebellion.

The action is non-stop and believable and the author’s experience as a combat vet is clearly evident by his realistic descriptions of combat itself.  Just as realistic is the description of politics and journalism.  Mr. Peters, grasps the essential corruption of current American society and shows how that corruption can lead to disunion when there are no leaders worthy of the name on the national stage.

The quality of the writing is outstanding, I was constantly kept in mind of the works of other writers such as Tom Kratman, John Ringo, and Michael Z. Williamson when reading this.  His book is easily as good and s well written as any major published military or sci-fi writer.  I have found another author to add to my list of people who I will eagerly await there next offering.

As an added bonus, Mr Peters is donating the profits from the book to the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project, a charity that supports wounded and il military members at the US Military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.  That is a cause I, as a veteran can support wholeheartedly.

I highly recommend this book.  It is available on Amazon.com as both a hardcopy and for Kindle.


Formic Wars Graphic Novel variant cover art by Bryan Hitch.

Book Review: Earth Unaware by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston

Earth Unaware is the first book of the Formic War trilogy, which is the prequel to the The Ender Quartet that first appeared in the 1980′s.  It essentially tells the story of how earth and humanity got into the position of developing Battle School and the fleets that Ender uses to wipe out the Formics in Ender’s Game.

Formic Wars Graphic Novel variant cover art by Bryan Hitch.
Formic Wars Graphic Novel variant cover art by Bryan Hitch.

This book starts off with rather a whimper but quickly picks up speed and keeps you glues to the pages.  I got the distinct impression that my wife was annoyed because I would not put the book down in the evenings while I was reading it.  Anyone who has read the Ender Quartet will like the book as well as people who like SF but have not read Card or Johnston’s work before.  Mazer Rackham, who plays a bit part in Ender’s Game also appears in this work, if briefly.  But there are hints that there is more to come and indeed he must become more prominent because it was he who is responsible for defeating the Formic invasion of the home system.

This review will be short because I do not want to include too many spoilers.  I will sum up the plot this way.  This is the story of how humanity made first contact with the Formics, discovered their invariably hostile nature, and reacted.  It includes Free Miners in the Kuiper Belt, corporate giants, and an international military force.  Once the story picks up speed it does no stop and ends with a very good cliffhanger.

This is an outstanding work of classic science fiction and even though it is set in the Ender universe it can be read by someone who has no familiarity with the Ender Quartet at all.  Like just about everything else Card has written, this is worth the time.  I highly recommend this book.